March 12-25, 2004
Vol. 34, Issue 5
Back Issues
Barcelona: A laboratory for learning
Lindners create endowment for art history program
Kaleidoscope opens with community celebration
Headlines @ U.Va.
Free clinic grows beyond founders’ vision
Simulators to replace use of dogs
Cooking up a winner
Robert Marquez: Engineering environmental solutions with low-tech designs
Engineers Without Borders — U.Va. engineering students share their expertise
U.Va. maps out
Ten-year milestone gives book festival celebratory theme
Storyteller, healer Martin Prechtel to visit U.Va.
Environmental writers Lopez, Philippon to speak
Book art meets ‘Literary Art’
A pillar of Carr’s Hill, housekeeper Barbara Jett retires
Kaleidoscope opens with community celebration
M Bruce (left), chair of the Minority Rights Coalition, and Daisy Lundy, president of Student Council
Photo by Lincoln Ross Barbour
At a ceremony Feb. 26, students M Bruce (left), chair of the Minority Rights Coalition, and Daisy Lundy, president of Student Council, cut the ribbon, officially opening U.Va.’s Kaleidoscope Center for Cultural Fluency, located in Newcomb Hall.

By Virginia E. Carter

Eight years is a long time to wait, but Juliann Robey was thrilled to see a vision become reality on Feb. 26 when the Kaleidoscope Center for Cultural Fluency opened on the third floor of Newcomb Hall. Now a second-year Darden student, Robey was president of the Class of 1996 when the class decided to raise funds for a multicultural center as its gift to the University.

“ A kaleidoscope is a rapidly changing series of scenes and patterns,” said Robey, as she announced the center’s name. “We hope this too will be a continually changing place where one can find the candid exchange of viewpoints.”

Syd Dorsey, a member of the University’s Board of Visitors, also joined in the opening celebration for the new center. Acknowledging some early misgivings about using “diversity” as a buzzword for the new space, she cautioned that “adding the moniker of ‘diversity’ has little to do with actually achieving any.

“ True harmony, understanding and respect cannot be achieved by the stroke of a pen. It will require open minds, open hearts, widespread involvement and a lot of effort across the University community — not just by those of you present today.

“ The success of Kaleidoscope… is not defined by its space — though it’s a nice one — or defined by its name — though it’s a good one — but defined by the people that are part of this University community.”

The idea of creating a multicultural center, proposed at various times not only by the Class of 1996 but also by other groups, took on renewed strength last spring when racial tensions arose on Grounds. The student-led Minority Rights Coalition, persistent in advocating for a space where students could come together to examine issues of diversity, began meeting with administrators to discuss the possibilities.

Newcomb Hall Director Bill Ashby saw great potential for such a space in Newcomb’s third-floor informal lounge. Infrequently used by students, partially because of the vestibule-like entryway, the lounge did not invite interaction.

Now that the renovations are complete, the space unmistakably welcomes interaction. The double doors of glass allow an open view into the center. The granite-tone, dry-erase “graffiti wall,” filled with congratulatory wishes in different languages the day of the opening, invites free expression. Chairs are on wheels to allow for changing set-ups and face-to-face communication. Art from students, faculty and alumni adorn the walls. And the room’s focal point, a 61-inch, plasma-screen TV, offers a window to the world.

The center’s most important aspect—programming—already promises to be different. Lounge nights, sponsored by Student Council’s ad hoc committee on social diversity, will occur every Monday night. The first Lounge Night, on March 1, featured co-hosts N.O.W. and the College Republicans, a duo that drew laughter when announced in the same breath at the opening celebration.

Shamim Sisson, senior associate dean of students and chairwoman of the center’s advisory committee, said anyone in the University community is invited and encouraged to use the center. Topics of upcoming programs include identity and stereotypes, global health, diversity in the media and a student artist discussion.

“ We are optimistic that the new center will provide many opportunities for people to come together in ways that increase understanding and respect for differences,” Sisson said.

Seeing the center to fruition was a community effort. Students from the Minority Rights Coalition, Student Council and University Programs Council led the effort with support from Ashby and Sisson, as well as the Office of African-American Affairs, the Office of International Studies and the U.Va. Bookstore. Continuing to represent her classmates, Robey also serves on the advisory committee, which will remain in place to make recommendations for ongoing operations of the center.

Ben Blanchard, a graduate architecture student, led a team of five undergraduates in designing the space. Blanchard worked under the guidance of Eugenio Schettini and Amy Forbes from the Facilities Management Design Group. Project manager Bob Thompson from Facilities Management Renovations led the construction effort.

Despite the beauty of the new center, Ashby reminded opening-day celebrants of the center’s true purpose: “We must visit here regularly and recognize that it is not the modern technology or furnishings that make this place special. It is the dialogue, the interaction and the time spent together in the spirit of greater understanding that will give this place — and ultimately any space on Grounds — special meaning.”


© Copyright 2004 by the Rector and Visitors
of the University of Virginia

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